Arnold Beckman dies at 104

Inventor of the pH meter amassed a fortune and pumped millions into basic research

Alison McCook(abmccook@yahoo.com)
May 24, 2004

Arnold Beckman, philanthropist and inventor of the pH meter and DU spectrophotometer, died last week. He was 104.

The son of a blacksmith, Beckman created instruments that are now employed in virtually every laboratory across the globe, then used his fortune to up the pace of basic research.

"This person created this instrumentation revolution, starting in the 1930s, that really accelerated what we now call biotechnology," Peter B. Dervan, Bren Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology, told The Scientist. Dervan, who knew Beckman for 20 years, said that the current state of research would not have been what it is without him. "I think that he changed the way we live," he said.

Born in Cullom, Ill. in 1900, Beckman helped fund his education by playing piano for silent movies. He received a BS and MS degree in physical chemistry from the University of...

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